Those Pesky Subconscious Assumptions


Photo: Skitter Photo

Today is Revelation Sunday. I decided to forego attending services with my family and instead take pause with the birds in the backyard. It’s a lovely day, starting out a little overcast but eventually breaking into a sunlit morning. That’s my obligatory scene-setting sentence. I’m learning.

Anyway, I’ve been feeling frustrated with the relationship I have with my oldest daughter and so, despite my desire to lounge in a cloud of peaceful bliss knowing I was in the presence of God while appreciating the emerald green hillsides of the ravine behind our house (you go girl!), I felt troubled. I don’t like feeling troubled. So I asked for help while running through my Kindle’s library of daily books. One of the books is a great work I read almost twenty years ago. My husband made mention he’s been re-reading it so I thought I’d do the same. As I scanned the list while asking for help, I thought I heard something like, “I’ve got something for you…read a couple pages of The Divine Conspiracy.”

So I touched the title and waited (my Kindle is bloated with books and responds like a 102 year old grandma with arthritis). Now, this book isn’t for everyone, or so I’ve learned. Personally, I loved it the first time I read it and I love it again now. It appeals to my high need to understand things. Here is the thing that popped off the screen and grabbed me by the nose:

[1]“Practice routinely purposeful kindnesses and intelligent acts of beauty.”
A little context may be helpful. In the late eighties and early nineties, there were all kinds of sweet little sayings floating around meant to encourage us toward self-confidence and human goodness. For example, “Stand up or your rights,” “All I ever needed to know I learned in kindergarten,” and “Practice random kindnesses and senseless acts of beauty.” All well-intended messages but, as Dallas Willard says, if we were to try and plan our lives around these sayings, we would end up heading in the opposite direction of where we actually want to go. As I read, I wanted to defend myself for holding such lofty aspirations all of these years, albeit subconsciously, but then he went on to explain.

First, he said, instead of “Stand up for your rights” we ought to “Stand up for your responsibilities.”

Second, instead of “All I ever needed to know I learned in kindergarten,” we ought to take the posture of “I don’t know what I need to know and must now devote my full attention and strength to finding out.”

And third, instead of “Practice random kindnesses and senseless acts of beauty,” we ought to “Practice routinely purposeful kindnesses and intelligent acts of beauty…and nothing is more meaningful than beauty.”

As I read his words, I self-assessed myself against the three, bumping up square against the last one. In that moment I realized I’ve been holding a profoundly misguiding assumption about what it is to be a good person. It’s not simply about being nice, kind, patient, funny, or generous. No, it’s way more than that. Way more than I realized, and I’m embarrassed to admit that at almost ^*&Y years of age, I hadn’t figured it out (blame it on my workaholism).

My entire approach in relating to my daughter is anemic, without intention, only seeking to get through the excruciatingly annoying exchanges without losing my patience or dropping any hints of disagreement that will inexplicably send her into the abyss of woe.

With my high sense of responsibility and my relentless pursuit of understanding, I now add routinely purposeful kindnesses and intelligent acts of beauty, especially in regard to my daughter.

Now, about the workaholism: it poses the greatest threat to my actually following through on what seems to be an early year resolution handed down by the Almighty. He knows what I need to do to keep up with my writing business and He tells me I can trust Him to manage things while I’m out doing purposeful kindnesses in regard to my daughter.

But will I believe Him?

And will I act on that belief?

[1] Willard, Dallas (2009-02-06). The Divine Conspiracy (p. 10). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.